The Null Device

Phone culture

Apparently mobile phones are replacing cars as the dominant means for young people to assert their identities/freedom. Cars are a bit unhip these days, being large, bulky and environmentally unfriendly, whereas phones, with ringtones, custom covers and those pointless bitmapped Eminem/Manchester United/No Fear/whatever logos that go for a few dollars in magazine ads, have taken over both as a fashion item and a symbol of independence and mobility.

That mobile phones are taking on many of the social functions of cars is to be welcomed. While it is a laudable goal that everyone on earth should someday have a mobile phone, cars' ubiquity produces mixed feelings. They are a horribly inefficient mode of transport--why move a ton of metal around in order to transport a few bags of groceries?--and they cause pollution, in the form of particulates and nasty gases. A chirping handset is a much greener form of self-expression than an old banger. It may irritate but it is safe. In the hands of a drunk driver, a car becomes a deadly weapon. That is not true of a phone (though terrorists recently rigged mobile phones to trigger bombs in Madrid). Despite concern that radiation from phones and masts causes health problems, there is no clear evidence of harm, and similar worries about power lines and computer screens proved unfounded. Less pollution, less traffic, fewer alcohol-related deaths and injuries: the switch from cars to phones cannot happen soon enough.

But does this mean we'll see pop songs glorifying the freedom-facilitating power of mobile phones in the near future? What would the 21st-century equivalent of, say, Prefab Sprout's Cars and Girls, be like?

There are 2 comments on "Phone culture":

Posted by: Gimbo Fri Apr 30 15:22:31 2004

Ah yes, mobile phones, those perfectly recycleable, utterly green and eco-friendly commodities.

Or, maybe not. Anyone remember this?

Still, maybe they are, at least, better than cars. OTOH people discard their phones more often than their cars, in my experience...

Posted by: Graham Sat May 1 06:30:28 2004

"In the hands of a drunk driver, a car becomes a deadly weapon."

A phone in the hands of any car driver becomes a deadly weapon. Seriously.

I mean, I don't pay much attention to my surroundings when I'm walking with a phone. When driving, when the use of all faculties is critical, it's fairly culpable to do so...